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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                     291

his face as if he had remembered something. "Wait a
minute!" he exclaimed. uAre you the Meresyev? The
Chief of Staff of A. F. telephoned me about you. He
warned me that you----"

"That's not important, Comrade Colonel," interrupted
Alexei, not very politely. "Permit me to proceed to my

The colonel looked at the senior lieutenant with curios-
ity and, nodding, said with an approving smile:

"Right! Orderly! Take these men to the Chief of Staff,
and give orders in my name to have them fed and pro-
vided with sleeping quarters. Say that they are to be
listed in Guards Captain Cheslov's squadron."

Petrov thought that the Wing Commander was a bit
too fussy. Meresyev liked him. Men like thisóbrisk, able
to grasp things at once, capable of thinking clearly and
of taking resolute decisionsówere just after his own heart.
The air scout's report that he had heard while sitting in
the garden had sunk into his mind. From many signs
which a soldier could read: from the congestion of the
roads they had hitch-hiked on after leaving Army Head-
quarters, from the fact that at night the sentries on the
road had insisted on strict black-out and threatened to
fire at the tyres of those who disobeyed, from the noise
and congestion in the birch woods off the main roads
caused by the concentration of tanks, trucks and artillery,
and from the fact that even on the deserted field road
they had been attacked by German "hunters" that dayó
Meresyev guessed that the lull at the front was coming
to an end, that the Germans intended to strike their new
blow in this region, that the blow would be struck soon,
that the Soviet Army Command was aware of this aad
had already prepared a worthy reply.

The restkss senior lieutenant would not let Petrov wait
for the third course at dinner, but made Mm jomp with
him on a fuel truck that was going to the airfield, which
was situated in a meadow outside the village, Here the
new men introduced themselves to Guards Captain Ghes-
lov, the Squadron Commander, a frowning, taciturn, but,